Alleged arsonist arrested for lighting 8 Norman fires

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NORMAN, Okla. – A man was arrested after allegedly starting nearly 10 grass fires in his neighborhood within a few weeks’ time.

James Cardwell is charged with eight counts of arson, after allegedly getting caught and admitting to lighting grass fires.

The fires were on or near Michael McDaniel’s family’s properties. One grass fire after the next started all over the area.

“We didn’t know who was starting them at first, and we didn’t know why they were trying to start them,” McDaniel said, “and it seemed like they were focusing on the corner around us, and all around our area, around where everybody that we know lives.”

For days, then weeks, they didn’t get a break from putting out flames that popped up.

“We had just gotten back inside the house, and I had grabbed something to eat, and the neighbor called and said, ‘You’re on fire,’ and I looked outside and there was nothing but smoke,” McDaniel said. “We had been fighting this nonstop, I mean, it seemed like every time we turned around it was being lit on fire.”

The fire department was always rushing out to protect the surrounding homes.

“That’s an area that we don’t go to, it’s pretty remote out there, and to be called out there that many times for that many grass fires is pretty unusual,” Norman Fire Deputy Chief Mike Wilson said.”Something’s going on. So we knew that we probably had someone out there setting them.”

Finally, Cardwell was allegedly caught in the act.

“As we came back around the corner, he took off running to the other side of the road, hiding something, and stomping on the grass that was just freshly lit,” McDaniel said.

Cardwell is their neighbor, and fire investigators said they don’t know exactly why he would risk everyone’s safety that way.

“One of our investigators said that he was wanting to make things look better,” Wilson said, “and a lot of times whenever there’s a grass fire, it burns all the dead grass.”

Fire investigators said Cardwell admitted to lighting eight of the fires in that area. He was arrested on a $60,000 bond, and pleaded not guilty.

“I don’t understand it, we don’t have a clue why,” McDaniel said. “I mean, it just, out of nowhere started starting fires.”

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